Across the MLB, position battles are a mainstay of Spring Training. In Chicago White Sox camp, the fight for one of the two catchers spots has been heating up recently. After Tyler Flowers was deemed the starting backstop on Sunday, the backup spot is still up for grabs. The picture became more clear on Wednesday, as the Sox sent down Josh Phegley to AAA. Phegley was hitting .261 this spring prior to his demotion.
While his overall slash of .261/.261/.565 so far was better than that of his 2013 season (.206/.223/.299), it was Phegley’s experience that did him in this year. White Sox coaches want Phegley to catch every day instead of occasionally; only giving Phegley the nod every fourth day would stunt his overall growth. In the minors, the Indiana University product will look to improve on his defense, as well as his handling of a pitching staff, while trying to resolve his offensive issues.
That leaves Adrian Nieto and Hector Gimenez as the two remaining candidates to give Flowers a spell every once in a while. Nieto, a Rule 5 draft choice from the Washington Nationals, must be on the major league roster all season, or he will be sent back to DC. What makes the 24 year old appealing is his ability to hit with some pop from both sides of the plate. The White Sox believe Nieto’s approach at the plate and defensive abilities are advanced for his age. While Gimenez does have a slight edge in regards to experience, 37 games to Nieto’s zero, he has shown already what he is capable of. Gimenez has a handle on calling games and has been successful catching for Jose Quintana in the past. It is the lack of offense that Gimenez provides (.216/.280/.330) that makes placing him on the big league club off putting. Also, losing someone of Nieto’s potential due to naming Gimenez the backup doesn’t make sense.The Sox might as well see what Nieto can do in the majors.
So far, the ball club loves the energy that Nieto brings, along with his advanced mindset. A particular at-bat that Nieto had this spring that stands out is when he drew a walk after falling down in the count 1-2 to Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish.
It is not like Nieto doesn’t have any big game experience either. He played for Spain in the World Baseball Classic last year and got a taste of what it is like to play against major leaguers.
With Spring Training coming to a close in less than two weeks, the White Sox will continue to make decisions that will shape the outlook of their 25-man roster. Giving Nieto the chance to run out onto the field with the rest of the Opening Day roster come Mar. 31 would be the right move.